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Instagram Launches New App, Threads

Meta Takes on Twitter: Instagram Launches New App, Threads

 Instagram has made a powerful move in the social media arena with the highly-anticipated launch of its latest app, Threads. This text-based social networking platform allows Instagram users to connect with their existing credentials and share concise updates, including text, links, photos, and videos. Threads is now available on iOS and Android in 100 countries, except for the EU, where concerns surrounding local data privacy regulations persist. By providing a seamless transition for users with their Instagram credentials, Threads ensures a smooth experience while also offering customization options for individual profiles.

image credits: Threads

Unveiling the App

The existence of Threads was first uncovered by MoneyControl in March and subsequently confirmed by Platformer. Meta, the parent company of Instagram, provided a sneak peek of the app to its employees during a company-wide meeting in June. Additional leaks shed light on the target market for Threads, which primarily consists of high-profile celebrities, influencers, and artists. Meta has planned an impressive range of features for this new platform.

Expanding Reach and Features

While Bluesky, the Twitter competitor backed by Jack Dorsey, has been gaining popularity through its own decentralized protocol, the AT Protocol, Instagram is taking a different approach. Threads will soon support ActivityPub, the same social networking protocol used by Mastodon, an open-source Twitter alternative, and other federated applications. By incorporating ActivityPub, Threads will have the opportunity to engage with Mastodon's ecosystem, which boasts 1.7 million active users. However, the exact timeline for this integration remains uncertain.

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, expressed the company's commitment to implementing ActivityPub into Threads. He acknowledged the challenges associated with a decentralized network and cited the significance of this feature. Mosseri emphasized the importance of being able to retain one's audience even if they decide to leave Threads or face de-platforming. The openness of the platform enables users to seamlessly transition to another server, safeguarding their online presence.

Navigating a Competitive Landscape

Threads' choice to embrace ActivityPub puts it in competition with other Mastodon clients, including independent apps like Ivory and the Mozilla-funded Mammoth. Flipboard, Medium, and Automattic, the owner of WordPress.com, have also invested in the Mastodon ecosystem, aligning themselves with the Twitter exodus. Nevertheless, Meta's entry into the open, decentralized social web has sparked concerns about its potential to employ an "embrace, extend, and extinguish" strategy. This strategy aims to dominate the emerging market, drawing parallels to how Google established dominance in web-based email.

In conclusion, Instagram's new app, Threads, is set to revolutionize the social media landscape. With its text-based format and support for ActivityPub, Threads will cater to the preferences of high-profile individuals and offer greater control and flexibility in building and retaining audiences. As Meta continues to shape its decentralized strategy, the competition within the Mastodon ecosystem intensifies. Only time will tell if Threads will emerge as the dominant force in this emerging market or if other contenders will seize the opportunity to challenge Meta's dominance.

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Instagram for your thoughts

In a move to enter the realm of microblogging, Meta, the parent company of Instagram, has made an ambitious foray with the launch of its latest app, Threads. While the app's success remains to be seen, this is an opportune time for Meta to explore this space. However, it's important to note that Meta has had mixed results when it comes to building successful stand-alone apps in the past.

Over the years, the company has discontinued numerous stand-alone apps, including Hello, Moves, Paper, Poke, Camera, Home, Slingshot, Rooms, Riff, Bolt, Lifestage, Groups, Stickered, Moments, Notify, Bonfire, Lasso, Novi, and others. These include well-known features like Boomerang, Hyperlapse, Direct, IGTV, and Threads from Instagram, as well as various experiments from their internal incubator, NPE team, such as BARS, E.gg, Forecast, Collab, Kit, Hobbi, Tuned, and more.

To access Threads, users will need to authenticate using their current Instagram login credentials. The app will then populate with their existing account details, including their name, username, photo, and followers. Verification status will also carry over to the new app.

This integration gives Threads an advantage in terms of user sign-ups, as highlighted in leaked marketing materials that mentioned how "one tap" allows users to follow the accounts they already follow on Instagram.

Beyond the immediate access to their network, the app's integration with Instagram offers another benefit: users' block lists from Instagram will be carried over to Threads. Additionally, Threads follows the same Community Guidelines as Instagram, making it easier for users to understand what is acceptable and what is not. Users will also have the ability to toggle their post replies to specific audiences.

Instagram has been experimenting with various ways for users to connect beyond sharing photos and videos through Reels, Stories, and Feeds. In February 2023, the platform launched "broadcast channels," enabling creators to engage more directly with followers by posting text, images, polls, reactions, GIFs, and more in messages within users' Instagram inboxes. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been utilizing this feature to share product news. Developers and reverse engineers have been delving into Instagram's code to uncover how Threads would function, including Alessandro Paluzzi, who discovered that the app would support up to 500 characters—less than Twitter's 10,000 characters for paid subscribers, but more than its 280 characters for non-paying users. At one point, Meta referred to the app as "an Instagram for your thoughts."

Social media consultant Matt Navarra reported in mid-May that Meta was seeking early adopters, particularly high-profile influencers and celebrities in the entertainment industry, to try a pre-release version of the app. Today's launch is not the first time Instagram has experimented with text-based updates. In December, the company introduced Notes, a feature that allowed users to leave short, 60-character text posts for friends to see just above their Instagram DM inbox. In June, the feature was updated to include music sharing. It's worth mentioning that Instagram previously launched a separate app called Threads, which resembled Snapchat, but it is no longer available.

Privacy concerns surrounding Threads have also emerged. Prior to its launch, the app was available for pre-order on the App Store, and some users noticed extensive data collection practices. According to Apple's listing, the Threads iOS app may collect various types of user data, including health information, financial data, purchase details, contact information, usage statistics, browsing history, and other sensitive information.

Unfortunately, this data collection is not unique to Threads but is a common practice among major socialplatforms such as TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, all of which are owned by Meta. However, with an increasing number of alternatives vying to become the "next Twitter," users now have more agency in choosing platforms with less dubious privacy practices. Nevertheless, Threads has an advantage due to its built-in integration with users' existing Instagram networks.

Given the ongoing privacy concerns surrounding Meta's suite of apps, Threads will not be launching in the EU, at least for the time being. Sources at Meta, as reported by The Guardian, indicate that the launch has been postponed due to legal uncertainties related to data usage under the Digital Markets Act, which was passed in March. Meta has valid reasons to exercise caution regarding this evolving legislation in the EU, as evidenced by a previous fine of around $1.3 billion for transferring European Union user data to the U.S. for processing.

As of now, users in the EU have one less alternative to Twitter. For those who have access to Threads from the start, they will have the opportunity to decide whether they want to allocate an even greater portion of their attention to Meta's family of apps.

In conclusion, Meta's entry into microblogging with the launch of Threads showcases its ambition to compete with Twitter. While the company has faced challenges in sustaining successful stand-alone apps in the past, Threads has the advantage of leveraging Instagram's existing user base and integration. Privacy concerns persist, and Threads' launch in the EU has been delayed due to legal uncertainties. As the competition for the "next Twitter" intensifies, users now have the freedom to choose platforms based on their privacy preferences. Only time will tell if Threads can establish itself as a prominent player in the microblogging landscape or if other alternatives will seize the opportunity to claim that position.

Frequently Asked Questions about Threads

1. What is Threads?

Threads is a text-based social networking app developed by Instagram, a subsidiary of Meta. It allows users to share short updates, including text, links, photos, and videos.

2. How can I access Threads?

Threads is available for download on both iOS and Android devices. Simply visit the App Store or Google Play Store, search for "Threads from Instagram," and follow the installation instructions.

3. Can I use my existing Instagram credentials to log in to Threads?

Yes, you can log in to Threads using your current Instagram login credentials. This makes the onboarding process seamless, and your username, verification status, and other account details will carry over.

4. Does Threads have its own customization options?

While Threads integrates with your Instagram account, it also offers independent customization options for your Threads profile. You can personalize your Threads experience by customizing your profile independently of your Instagram profile.

5. What are the main features of Threads?

Threads allows you to share text updates of up to 500 characters, along with links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length. It provides a streamlined experience for sharing content and staying connected with your network.

6. Will Threads support the ActivityPub protocol used by Mastodon?

Yes, Instagram has expressed its commitment to implementing support for ActivityPub, the social networking protocol used by Mastodon and other federated apps. This will enable broader reach and engagement within the Mastodon ecosystem.

7. What are the privacy implications of using Threads?

Threads collects user data in a manner similar to other major social platforms. However, concerns have been raised about the extensive data collection practices associated with the app. Users should review the app's privacy policy and consider their preferences before using Threads.

8. Why is Threads not available in the EU?

Threads' launch in the EU has been delayed due to legal uncertainties surrounding data use and privacy regulations. Meta, the parent company of Instagram, is cautious about compliance with the Digital Markets Act and the potential impact on user data handling.

9. Can I migrate my audience to another server if I leave Threads?

One of the key advantages of Threads is its commitment to openness and user control. Instagram's head, Adam Mosseri, has stated that they are working on implementing ActivityPub support to enable users to take their audience with them to another server in case they decide to leave Threads or face de-platforming.

10. Will Threads compete with other Mastodon clients and decentralized social networking apps?

Yes, Threads will enter into competition with other Mastodon clients and decentralized social networking apps. Its integration with Instagram's existing user base and its focus on high-profile celebrities and influencers will position it as a contender in this space. However, the outcome remains uncertain, and other alternatives continue to emerge.

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